Couple charged with witness intimidation

JOHNSTOWN — A Northville couple were arrested Tuesday by Fulton County sheriff’s investigators following a nearly five-year probe into the alleged covering up of suspected child abuse.

“I commend the investigators for staying on the case,” Sheriff Richard Giardino said Tuesday.

Investigators said Eugene Erb and Barbara Erb, no ages listed, of South Third Avenue in the village of Northville were arrested on two counts each of intimidating a witness, a Class E felonies.

Sheriff’s officials said the investigation began in July 2016 when a 13-year-old in the Erb’s custody at the time was brought to the emergency room with second and third-degree burns from her neck to her heels. The young girl was hospitalized for over a month due to these injuries.

A sheriff’s release said that throughout the investigation into the injuries, investigators were never able to obtain truthful information as to the cause. The young girl and three other children remained in the residence under the care of the Erbs.

Both Eugene Erb and Barbara Erb were arrested in June 2018 on charges of endangering the welfare of a child, misdemeanors. These charges stemmed from the fact that despite having sustained severe injuries that required over a month of hospitalization, surgeries, and skin grafts, the 13-year-old victim was not brought to a doctor for over a week after she was burnt.

Giardino called the incident involving the girl a “despicable, vile act.” He said the child was “brave” in later years, coming forth with information.

Both suspects pled guilty to the charges of which they were accused in 2018, and they both received a fine.

Recently, both the young girl who was burnt and another child have separated themselves from the Erbs and have spoken with investigators, the release said.

The investigation established probable cause to believe that after the victim was burnt, Barbara and Eugene Erb not only told them to lie to police officers, doctors, and social workers, but threatened to physically harm them if they did not.

Through this alleged intimidation of the children, the Erbs allegedly prevented officers from properly investigating the alleged assault and resulting injuries in 2016 and beyond.

The Erbs were arraigned in the Northampton Town Court before Town Justice Jack Farquhar and released on their own recognizance.

The District Attorney’s Office had recommended bail be set at $25,000 each.

By Paul Wager